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Some of England's richest sheep-grazing land lies in the region of undulating green hills located between Leicester and Market Harborough, where the open slopes are broken only by low hedgerows and the occasional isolated village. Here the origins of the weekly cattle market can be traced back seven centuries. The pace of daily life in southern Leicestershire is as tranquil as the countryside itself. Secluded byways meander through a landscape of open fields, here and there interrupted by the line of a canal or the curve of a river. This is countryside that bespeaks timelessness, partly due to the weathered pink-brown Ketton stone traditionally used in so many of the county's buildings.
A branch of the Grand Union Canal, employed in the 19 th century for industrial transport, is used today by recreation and pleasure craft. For much of its length the canal flows through open countryside and the walks along the towpath are both pleasant and peaceful.
To the north-west of Leicester lie the remains of Charnwood Forest, a once densely wooded region covering some 30-square miles. The forest has suffered from centuries of felling and today presents an extraordinary, almost eerie panorama of open heath, rocky outcrops and uneven ridges, broken only by the occasional isolated clump of oak trees or the ragged edge of a former granite quarry. Gradual clearing of the forest over the years has revealed traces of Roman and Saxon settlements and the sites of several medieval abbeys built there for seclusion. Even older than the abbeys are the stone quarries; the vast quarry in Mountsorrel has given its name to a type of granite, which has been extensively quarried in the area for nearly 1000 years. The strange half-light cast that precedes a storm gives this extraordinary landscape an even more freakish and dramatic appearance.
Nearly half the population of the county lives in the thriving county-town and cathedral city of Leicester, a city which can trace its roots back to the Roman period when it was a place of importance. Leicester Castle, only a little less old than the city, its origins lying in Saxon but more especially Norman times, has enjoyed a colourful history. It was the scene of one of the first of those stormy meetings of the barons that led to Magna Carta.
Leicestershire, being primarily rural, provides favourable ground for those who hunt with hounds, a huntsman's paradise with its many hills and dales, open views, wide grasslands and scattered woods. Charnwood Forest was a hunting ground in the Middle Ages for local lords of the manor --the Quorn and Belvoir Hunts are famous.
Leicestershire has a sizeable scattering of charming villages with a great variety of appeal. Woodhouse, with its splendid views of Charnwood; Stapleford's old Hall has a marvellous array of sculpture displayed out of doors; Kirkby Muxloe hides away an ancient ruined castle over 400-years old; Redmile and Sibson still ring the curfew bell as they have for over 20 generations, and of course there is the incomparable Belvoir Castle that can trace its ancestry back to Norman times.